The traditional High School education received in the countries winners of the Second World War does not insist much on the absolute massacre that occurred in Japan on August 6th and 9th 1945. Using only two bombs of a new generation, the US Army killed more than 250 000 people in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. This mass killing of civilians has been justified by the Allies as a necessary evil in order to stop the war and this official version remains the one currently taught in those countries’ schools.
By this month of August 1945, Japan had already pretty much lose the war and those monstrous attacks have to be understood more as occasions to try on “real scale” a new dreadful technology that would became crucial in the antagonism to become with the Soviet Union. Of course the official “necessary evil” version had to remain and in order to implement it, the Truman administration had forbidden the release of any documents coming from Hiroshima that could possibly shock the American population. In the meantime, they sent 1,150 military personnel and civilians, including photographers to collect information on site to observe the effect of their new weapons.
Almost seventy years later, the International Center of Photography in New York City, releases an exhibition with sixty photographs which were taken by some members of those 1150 American officials. You can watch a “trailer” to this exhibition below that seems to insists mostly on the urban damages rather than the human aspect. The latter can be approached via this link (I have yet to warn my readers about the crudity of those photographs) that among other things, describe the incredible phenomena of those silhouettes of bodies and objects that have been printed on walls in the same way than a photo on a film (see the first picture after the break).
Those two series of photographs participate to constitute a collective imaginary of the true horror that happened those two days of August 1945 when this same imaginary had been voluntarily and actively restricted from the people to disconnect the information and its reality.
In order to complement such participation, I cannot help to recommend the beautiful Hiroshima mon Amour (1959) by French director Alain Resnais (with a script by author Marguerite Duras) that introduces two characters, a French woman and a Japanese man whose love to become is troubled by their respective traumatic pasts under the Nazi occupation and the atomic bombing of Hiroshima.